The 34-year-old, who made his debut for Championship side Derby this week, has described how he was “sucked in” by initial success with gambling before ending up losing money and then “chasing his bets” to try and win it back.
Rooney decided to speak out about his personal turmoil after facing criticism over Derby’s decision to give him the number 32 shirt in association with a betting sponsor.
United’s all-time leading goalscorer blamed boredom and unlimited telephone gambling for the habit but he has since quit gambling altogether, insisting he has “learned from my mistakes”.
Speaking on a video for 32Red’s Stay In Control gambling awareness campaign, the former England captain said: “I was a young lad who’d just come into a lot of money.
“For an away game with Manchester United you stay in a hotel – and with England you’re in a hotel for seven to 10 days. You get bored and do things to fill the time. At that time gambling was one of them.
“It was easy to place bets by phone. It didn’t feel like real money. It wasn’t like I had to go into a bookies and put bets where there are limits.
“Before you know it you’ve lost a good bit and you don’t realise the amount you’re putting on at the time. I won at the start and thought it was easy money. It sucks you in a bit more and I ended up losing, ended up down.
“I was chasing my bets trying to win my money back. You’re there to play for your country or club and when you’re losing money the way I was, then it will affect you.
“Thankfully I managed to pay up what I lost and I didn’t gamble again. I’ve learned from my mistakes. If you carry on gambling, you lose more. That’s when you can get sucked into a bad situation.”